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Strengthening enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention

Photo: Andy Li /

Foreign bribery is not an abstract phenomenon; it has huge consequences for both the payer and recipient. Money lost to foreign bribes creates significant economic repercussions, triggers unfair competitive advantages and results in fewer public services for the people who need them most.

Exporting Corruption is a research project that rates the performance of 44 leading global exporters, including 40 countries that are signatories of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention, and shows how well – or poorly – countries are enforcing the rules.

The OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions ("OECD Anti-Bribery Convention") was established to promote a bribe-free, level playing field for companies around the world. It entered into force in 1999.

More than 20 years after this law was adopted, a corruption-free, level playing field for global trade is still a distant dream.

More than 50 per cent of world exports come from countries that fail to punish foreign bribery.

What's at stake?

Uneven enforcement of laws prohibiting foreign bribery presents a substantial challenge for companies that play by the rules while competing in a global marketplace.

In the absence of uniform enforcement, many companies that are not subject to stringent regulatory scrutiny may seek to improve their competitive position by engaging in bribery.

We think this is wrong.

Transparency International believes that we can help level the playing field for companies that don’t bribe. The advocacy initiative outlined below can make this vision a reality.

Despite some high-profile fines and prosecutions, our research shows that enforcement of foreign bribery laws among most OECD countries is shockingly low.

The 2018 report reveals that more than half of world exports come from countries that fail to punish foreign bribery. Only 11 countries significantly punish companies that pay bribes abroad.

Thirty-three countries have limited, little or no enforcement. The inaction of these countries violates their obligations under the convention.

What are we doing about it?

Transparency International wants to use targeted national-level campaigns that can bring the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention to the “tipping point” in the next three to five years – and send a clear message that tolerating foreign bribery violates global norms.

Our national campaigns will:

  • Conduct outreach to government officials such as justice ministers, trade ministers and legislators;
  • Cultivate public support through traditional and social media programmes; and
  • Build advocacy networks among commercial, public interest and professional groups.

Unlike many corruption-related indicators, enforcement of anti-bribery laws can be readily measured – and the success of our advocacy efforts monitored – by tracking the number of bribery investigations, prosecutions and convictions. This is covered in Transparency International’s annual progress reports on OECD Anti-Bribery Convention enforcement.

A true commitment to a corruption-free business environment demands more than words or laws – it demands enforcement.

Our team

In addition to Transparency International national chapters, a variety of stakeholders within the private sector and civil society have joined our effort to promote the enforcement of anti-bribery laws. Each of our advocacy campaigns will be supported by a national coordinating body consisting of national Transparency International chapters and key private sector and civil society allies, and will also have the support of a Steering Committee comprised of internationally recognised anti-corruption experts.

Our private sector partners are eager to compete in a bribe-free market, and are committed to working closely with civil society stakeholders to promote uniform anti-bribery enforcement.

Our approach

In order to maximise our impact, we are targeting countries that are parties to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and which have the capacity and resources to fulfill their enforcement obligations but for a variety of reasons have failed to do so. Three specific criteria will be used to identify target countries for 2015:

  • Legal framework: Target countries should have a strong legal framework with relevant anti-corruption laws on the books along with the appropriate structures for enforcement in place. The OECD Phase 3 country reports and Transparency International’s progress reports will provide the basis for assessing the legal framework of target countries.
  • Private sector and civil society buy-in: Given that the national advocacy programmes will be managed by domestic actors, it is essential that target countries have a robust network of private sector and civil society organisations that have the capacity and interest to engage effectively in advocacy efforts.
  • Achieving success: In order to build momentum for future national advocacy programmes, target countries should be selected, in part, based on the prospect that initial advocacy efforts will yield positive results within two years.